I wanted to discuss a couple of talking points that have appeared in the last few days. As you can see in my latest mock draft, I don't buy all the talk of Detroit passing on Ndamukong Suh or Gerald McCoy to draft an offensive tackle. The argument for the Lions doing that is justified - I appreciate that. Detroit has aggressively added some pieces to their defense during free agency at quite a cost. They also made a considerable investment in Matt Stafford being the future of the franchise - so drafting a highly rated, young left tackle to watch his blind side would make some sense.
However, I just don't think it's going to happen.
The Detroit Lions ranked dead last in total defense in 2009. They gave up 494 points in 16 regular season games (to put into context, the leaky Seattle Seahawks only conceded 390 points). They averaged a loss of 392 yards per game and a staggering six yards per snap. Only five teams conceded less rushing touchdowns and St. Louis, Kansas City and Jacksonville were the only teams to record less sacks. Quite frankly, the Lions were a mess on defense.
Comparatively, the Lions ranked 21st in the NFL as a passing offense. It's by no means great, but certainly a step above some of the 'league worst' stats we're looking at on defense. Admittedly, they gave up the ninth most sacks (43) and sixth most quarterback hits (95). Those stats can be deceiving though, considering such high power offenses like Green Bay, Arizona, Houston and even Minnesota are just below the Lions in the QB hit department. More telling is the time of possession stats, which put Detroit 22nd in the NFL - above Chicago, Tennessee, Philadelphia, Indianapolis and - not surprisingly - the league worst Seattle Seahawks. It at least indicates that the offenses' inability to stay on the field wasn't necessarily the determining factor in why Detroit was so poor on defense.
It was an abomination. It's one of the reasons why, having taken an early 17-0 lead against the Seahawks last November, they were eventually overwhelmed even by Seattle's stuttering offense 32-20.
However, simply drafting a guy like Ndamukong Suh isn't going to solve your problems. It'd be a wasted investment - a big fat pay cheque to ask a guy to revolutionise a defense on his own is asking for trouble. I do believe that a lot of Detroit's moves in free agency have been designed to create a better environment for a young, stud defensive lineman to enter. Rather than view Corey Williams and Kyle Vanden Bosch as solutions, I think they're part of the justification for drafting someone like Suh. An experienced pass rush off the edge and an interior partner to boot for an extremely talented, potentially elite young tackle. It makes a lot of sense.
Is it a lot of investment in the defensive line? Sure. But lest we forget, Jim Schwartz knows what it takes to build a successful defense. When he was in Tennessee, Albert Haynesworth was his stud interior presence - but he had the supporting cast.
I also believe that this Lions franchise has it's finger on the pulse. This is a very different setup to the previous Matt Millen era. They made a statement last year when they drafted a tight end - Brandon Pettigrew - when positions of greater need were still on the board. The reason? Pettigrew was top of their board. I cannot envisage a situation where, if available, Suh and McCoy aren't 1a and 1b on Detroit's board. There simply isn't an offensive tackle that touches anywhere near the potential quality of the two stud defensive lineman. I've made my feelings known on Russell Okung frequently, but I would recommend people check out Kyle Rota's scouting report on the Oklahoma State lineman. He seems to be the hot tip to potentially land second overall with Detroit. I would be absolutely stunned if the Lions passed on the two brilliant defensive lineman to take Russell Okung. People can criticise Jeff Backus and his starting role, but the Lions - in my opinion - are more likely to run him for another year and draft Suh.
Of course, a lot of these mocks that have Okung going second overall end up sending Gerald McCoy to the Seahawks. It's a nice thought and one I'd love to believe. McCoy has elite potential in the NFL and everybody is aware of that by now. I wouldn't get your hopes up though. Here's something to ponder too - if the Seahawks were willing to draft Jimmy Clausen 6th overall when McCoy wasn't on the board, do things necessarily change if he is? I'm not so sure. Do you really go against drafting your quarterback for the future because a defensive tackle has dropped to #6? If the Seahawks are set on Clausen at #6, he could end up being the pick regardless.
The final thing I want to put out there today is the whole hoopla regarding Anthony Davis (OT, Rutgers). Apparently he didn't work out at the Rutgers pro-day yesterday despite scouts thinking he would. Eventually he showed up, but wouldn't be weighed or do any work outs due to a sore hamstring and a 'stomach virus'. All this off the back of what some have described as an average combine.
Let me remind you of a similar situation last year. A very talented but raw offensive lineman ended the year in controversy when he spoke to an agent before the Sugar Bowl. He was forced to miss the game and end his college career prematurely. It raised concerns about his decision making and maturity. This same player arrived at the combine to hold a press conference basically saying he won't work out and he's going home. Again - even more questions about the guys attitude. He eventually held a pro-day and decided to run a forty yard dash shirtless, exposing a huge flabby gut that made scouts wonder about his work ethic and ability to stay in shape. By this point people were projecting him to fall into round two in their mock drafts and his stock was at an all time low.
That prospect was Andre Smith. He was drafted 6th overall by the Cincinnati Bengals.
Before people get carried away throwing Anthony Davis down their mock drafts and thinking this guy will plummet - let me put this point to you: Davis has a lot of the same issues Smith had to deal with. However, Davis is far superior in pass protection, he has a higher ceiling as a potential starting left tackle and he's still very young (20 years old on draft day). Like Smith, somebody is going to look at this guy and see a blank canvas, with the potential to paint a masterpiece. Is it a risk? Sure. But the rewards are huge. I still think there's a very good chance Davis will be the first tackle off the board on April 22nd.